Monthly Archives: November 2015

Three Middle Grade Authors I Discovered in 2015

2015 has been a great year of a reading for me. While I’m almost at four hundred books on my Goodreads goal (with half of those being comics and graphic novels, let’s not kid ourselves), I’ve discovered a lot of great new reads, and some authors who I’m now working through their entire back catalogue. Here’s a few of the writers I discovered in 2015.
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Susin Nielson
I had the pleasure of being sent a copy of “We Are All Made of Molecules” for review back in the Spring, and I loved it. It was my first exposure to Nielson’s writing outside of Degrassi, and I just found myself loving how open and honest her portrayal of families was. Since then, I’ve now read “Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mother” and “Word Nerd,” both which I found to be equally fantastic. Nielson really knows how to make her readers laugh, and the humour is simply genuine.
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Jacqueline Woodson
Like many recent converts, the book that hooked me to Woodson’s writing was “Brown Girl Dreaming.” After reading that book, it’s easy to see why it won every award ever and how it teaches so much about racism, inequality, youth, family and friendship. Woodson’s style is easy to engage with, it’s both beautiful as it is powerful, and I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed many of her other novels since “Brown Girl Dreaming.” If I could recommend any others by her, I’d say “Locomotion” and “From the Notebook of Melenin Sun” would definitely be up there.
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Jennifer L. Holm
My darling middle grade book pusher and confidant Vikki VanSickle introduced me to the works of Jennifer L. Holm with “The Fourteenth Goldfish,” which was simply delightful. I also took out “Sunny Side Up” her recent graphic novel that she collaborated on with her brother, and equally found that to be an engaging read. Jennifer L. Holm’s books read like they are a comfortable blanket — simple on the surface, but more complex as you unravel the blanket. I definitely plan on checking out more of her books, especially her acclaimed Babymouse series.
And with that, I want you guys to recommend me some middle grade for my 2016 TBR! What are some titles I could look into? Who are some authors worth discovering? Let me know in the comments.

Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge — Update #10 & Other Challenges

We have exactly one month left until the end of the year, and I am SO CLOSE to finishing my challenges that I can taste it! Here’s what I managed to read for my Book Riot Challenge this month! This means I only have two out of twenty four books left to read. Here’s how my shelf is looking for this project. Hard to believe I’m two books to finishing this year long challenge.

#4: A Book Published by an Indie Press

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Shadow of Death, Book Two of the Chosen Chronicles by Karen Dales (Indie Press: Dark Dragon Publishing, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

I really like this series, and I thought this installment really ramped up the drama for Angel. Furthermore, I really loved how the majority of this book took place in Toronto. Considering its a city I am familiar with, it was great to be able to visualize the landmarks and streets that Dales was referencing in the story. Also omg Gywn! This book did however, feel like less of a horror novel compared to the first one. In fact, it read closer to an urban fantasy novel for me than it did horror, but that’s okay. My only gripe is while I loved the story, the editing in this book was a little wonky at times. Still, I really dug the story and I’ll have to bump Thanatos up in my TBR soon. Seriously, I love it when a vampire series actually uses vampire mythos correctly. SO HAPPY!

And since this is an indie press release, here’s some links to where you can buy this series, and support the author if you’re curious about it! Karen is a great writer, and a pleasure to know.

#8: A Book by an Author from Africa

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Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

I’ve had Zoo City on my TBR for like, ever. It was one of those books where I was like HELLSYESINEEDTOREADTHIS and then just plum forgot about it. Yeah, I’m an ass. However, I have finally read it now, and the challenge it’s under is quite appropriate given that this is an African science fiction novel. Not only does this book highlight some of the issues facing African countries, but it taught me a surprising amount about countries I didn’t know a lot about to begin with, and with the science fiction setting, it was completely fascinating. Plus Zinzi just kicks major ass, and Sloth is a brilliant partner. I loved Beniot, but feels. Feels folks.

And for this challenge, Lauren Beukes is of South African descent, and is from  Johannesburg, South Africa.


You may recall last month that I said I was going to work through a lot of my series, playing catch up mostly. Well, I started a few new series, I caught up in a few. Here’s what I managed to get to:

First in a Series

  • Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman (Book 1 in the Vineart War series)
  • Riders by Veronica Rossi (Book 1 in the Riders series, releasing Feb 16th 2016)
  • Bitch Planet Volume 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick et al.
  • Nailbiter Volume 1 by Joshua Williamson et al.
  • Bridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training by Jonathan Bernstein (Book 1 in the Bridget Wilder series)
  • The Death and Life of Zebulone Finch: Volume One by Daniel Kraus (Volume 1 in the Zebulon Finch series)
  • The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale et al. (Book 1 in the Princess in Black series)

Sequels in a Series

  • Red Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire (Book 9 in the October Daye series, caught up)
  • Fables Vol. 21 & 22 by Bill Willingham and co. (Completed!)
  • Ava XOX by Carol Weston (Book 3 in the Ava and Pip series, caught up. Releasing Feb 1st 2016)
  • Shadow of Death by Karen Dales (Book 2 in The Chosen Chronicles)
  • Black Widow, Vol. 3: Last Days by Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto (Completed!)
  • Morning Glories, Vol. 2: All Will Be Free

ARC Review – Hello? by Liza M. Wiemer

26831132Title:  Hello?

Author: Liza M. Wiemer

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Tricia: A girl struggling to find her way after her beloved grandma’s death. Emerson: A guy who lives his life to fulfill promises, real and hypothetical.  Angie: A girl with secrets she can only express through poetry. Brenda: An actress and screenplay writer afraid to confront her past. Brian: A potter who sets aside his life for Tricia, to the detriment of both.

Linked and transformed by one phone call, “Hello?” weaves together these five Wisconsin teens’ stories into a compelling narrative of friendship and family, loss and love, heartbreak and healing, serendipity, and ultimately hope.

Huge than you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

After seeing everyone RAVING about this book I knew that I had to check it out. I was immediate put off by the multiple POV, but I had to know what everyone was so excited about. So I put my qualms aside (as I do when it comes to multiPOV) and gave it a shot.

Originally I thought this book was going to be about five teens who each got a phone call and that they all came together through this mysterious phone call. SO not what this book was about. So I was a little… confused? idk. Surprised that it wasn’t that (even tho it kinda sounds like that in the description).

Overall this book was good, and very well written. It tackles a lot of tough topics that I think are important for teen readers to have access to. The choice to use five diff POVs was a bit much, but I did like how one was in free verse, another was written in script format, and a third had drawings mixed in. Each voice was unique and I actually didn’t get ANY of them mixed up (which is rare for me & MPOV).

I did feel like a couple of voices got lost in the shuffle though. Brian in particular seemed to just kinda fade out at times and wasn’t as present as the ones that I felt were the main POVs (Tricia, Emerson and Brenda). There were times I was even wondering if he’d gotten forgotten about!

I also felt like a few things were a little predictable and melodramatic. I attribute this to the fact that I read A LOT of contemporary and I went into this with really high expectations. I was able to put things together before they could be reveled and was never really “mind-blown” by the revels as much as I probably should have been.

Overall thought I did enjoy this book. I really liked the tone, and there was a lot that I was able to relate to from my own teen years. I can see why this book is such a favorite and I hope that it makes it’s way into the hands of readers that need it.

ARC Review – Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

22701879Title:  Not If I See You First

Author: Eric Lindstrom

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened–both with Scott, and her dad–the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

Huge thank you to The Novl for sending me a finished copy of this book!

River’s Review:

Guys, let’s be honest. I had an eARC of this and probably wouldn’t have read it but then I got a copy from The Novl and decided that I should give it a shot. I know, I know, the cover isn’t anything special… unless you have a finished copy! IT HAS BRAILLE ON IT! And if you can find a pair of those red and blue 3-D glasses (yes I had a pair laying around, my husband is taking a computer vision class and he got them idek) THE COVER IS IN 3-D AND LOOKS SO COOL! So please don’t judge this cover too harshly (I know it’s very different from the norm in YA covers).

Originally I was drawn to this book (and going to read it at some point) because the MC is blind. If you know me, you know that I have struggled with an eye disease since 2004 and there were times I thought I was going to go blind (and could still possibly go blind in the future if things ever get really bad real fast and take a turn for the worse). I spent the first few years after my diagnosis dealing with treatments and the fear that they weren’t going to work. THANKFULLY at my last eye doctor appointment I was deemed the healthiest I’ve been since 2002 and that things will probably remain steady. SO YEAH. But eye issues and blindness are close to my heart.

Parker, our MC, has been blind since she was seven years old. Her mother crashed the car she was driving and Parker was injured and lost her sight. She grows up with her father, who suddenly dies the June before Parker’s junior year of high school. Parker’s Aunt, Uncle and two cousins move across the country to live with her and take care of her so she doesn’t have to move and re-learn a school/home/city.

Parker is one tough cookie. She’s sassy and honest and a bit brutal at times. She doesn’t let people treat her special or delicate and I loved that. I’ve read a lot about blindness and how blind people usually HATE being restricted. Yes, they can’t see, but they’re still living people who can function! Sight isn’t always what we need to live our lives the best we can… so Parker makes up The Rules; a set of rules that she lives by and makes others respect if they’re going to be around her. Sadly her best friend turned boyfriend breaks one of the rules (one of the MOST IMPORTANT rules) and she freezes him out of her life.

I was able to relate with Parker on so many levels. I’ve always been small and sickly and I’ve always hated it when people would treat me like a delicate flower that’s going to break. I’ve overcome a lot of that and I always feared that if I DID go blind how I’d lose a lot of what I have now. I also understood Parker’s take on relationships and how if you burned her once then you were done. I’m sadly very much like that and have trouble forgiving people and moving on and making amends.

The friendship’s in this book were really well done. I felt like they were very real. Parker has a best friend and then a few other close friends who orbit high school in different cliques. She makes new friends and even goes on a date with a new boy and she learns a lot about herself when she has some problems and comes to realize that she doesn’t always listen to people like she should.

I liked how messy and complicated the relationships in this book were. I really liked the themes of sight and seeing things and hearing and listening. And I loved how not only Parker grew, but her friends did too. And sometimes you don’t really see a lot of character growth in secondary characters.

Overall I am SO glad that I read this book and I REALLY hope others will give it a try. I feel like it’s realistic and well written and respectful towards blind people and the struggles they face.

Ten Books I Need to Get to Before 2016

So if you can all believe it, 2016 is on the horizon. In fact, there’s only a month and a bit to go… and I still have a crap ton of reading I want to get done. I know, I know, you’re all probably going “Sam, you read like a boss! How can you have stuff you haven’t gotten to yet?” Well, readers, I am such a damn mood reader that sometimes I put books off because I know I’m not in the right mood for it… yet. Which is a lot of the books you’re going to see on this list. However, I am bound and determined that before December 31st, I am getting to all of these. Here’s the ten books I need to get off my ass and read before the end of the year.

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Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

So River turned me into this insane Jessi Kirby fan, and I’ve read all her books except for this one. River even GOT ME A COPY OF THIS DAMN BOOK. How have I not gotten to it yet? Well, it’s on a topic that is a little tough for me, and I know I will probably bawl like a baby when I finally do get off my ass and read it. Jessi Kirby writes such wonderful and powerful stories, so I need to get to this NAO.

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Nobody’s Goddess by Amy McNulty

As a friend of the author’s, I feel like she should have bitch slapped me by now. The premise is crazy intriguing, and I love that it throws gender norms out the window. This should seriously be completely up my alley, so I feel like a butthole for not reading this yet. I suppose I need to drag my Kindle on my train rides to work again! Amy, yell at me some more until I read this. Every day until I read this. Seriously.

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The Shadow Stealer by Melissa Giorgio

This is a ditto to the above book, minus the fact that it is the ending to an awesome series. I think I keep putting this one off because I don’t want it to be over, and I don’t want to ever forget about this spectacular characters. If you haven’t read this series and you love YA paranormal with some delightfully realistic characters, you NEED TO READ THIS SERIES. OMG.

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The Girl Who Could Fly
by Victoria Forester

Back in October I had the pleasure of reviewing the companion book to this one, The Boy Who Knew Everything, and I LOVED IT. Victoria Forester has a very enchanting writing style, and this book was gifted to me by a lovely publishing friend who spoke insanely highly of it. Plus it’s not a chunky book, so I feel like I can fly through it.

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Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu

I got this book back in August during the Frenzy Presents event, and while I read the other two books in my goodie bag, this one I kept holding back on. I have a feeling this one is going to be a good, tough read in terms of the subject matter. While I’ve heard mixed things about Corey Ann Haydu’s books, this one sounds like a great starting point for me, and I’ve been curious about getting into her work. Plus this cover is gorgeous.

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Worlds of Ink and Shadow
by Lena Coakley

So more ditto to the above, but I discovered this book while at the Harper Collins Canada Frenzy Presents event. In fact, my ARC is even signed by the author to me.  This book comes out early January, and it focuses on the Bronte family. I’m not the biggest Brontes fan, but the premise for this book sounds delightfully charming and a little disturbing. I need to get on this before the release date. Yes I do.

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Shattered by Kevin Herne

So this is book seven in the Iron Druid series, and um, it’s the only one I need to read to be caught up for January, since that is when book eight releases? Yeaaaaaaah…. this series is my candy, right up there with the Dresden Files. It’s cheeky, silly, Oberon is best dog (outside of my own dogs) and yeah, this series is just a ton of fun. Plus, I fly through these books! So there is kind of no excuse here.

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Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

I am a huge Rainbow Rowell fan, though admittedly I wasn’t super excited for Carry On. However, considering how much I adore her books, I can’t leave one ignored and unread. I’ve heard some very mixed things about this one, mostly going from THE BEST BOOK EVAR to WOW, WHY DOES THIS EXIST. I want to make my own judgement call on this one, though I am sure I will find it quite enjoyable.

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Winter by Marissa Meyer

Again we have another case of me not wanting to let go of a series. Seriously though, it’s the last Lunar Chronicles book. THE LAST ONE. I don’t know if I will be able to handle all the feelings that I am going to have with this series coming to an end. I love the world, the characters, the story, I just can’t get over how much Meyer has accomplished with this series, and I feel like it’s one everyone should read if they love fairy tale retellings. However, this is an 800 page beast, but I hope to whip through it.

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The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens

I adored Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens, and I’ve been anticipating this second book from her since it was announced. Once again, however, I have not gotten off my butt to read it yet because of reasons. Mainly, I’ve heard this isn’t as solid as her first book, but I hope to make my own judgements in regards to it. It looks as though it’ll be both a fast and tough read — two of my favourite things.

We’ll see how I do in the month of December. I’ve got roughly a month to try and powerthrough all of these, as well as working through some of the early 2016 ARCs I have to get to (which I will because I always do one Sam read, one ARC read). I also have TWO BOOKS left in my Book Riot challenge that I need to fit in some how. One of them looks to be a very Sam read, the other… looks a little dense but do-able. I’ve also put myself on a library ban until the new year, so I do have library books I need to tackle as well. I am hoping I have a better reading month in December than I did in November (I was a little slumpy).

Here’s to a good reading month! What’s on your TBR that you need to get to before the year is up and what did you think of my picks above? Good? Bad? Am I wasting my time with any of them? Let me know your thoughts!

ARC Review – Promises I Made (Lies I Told #2) by Michelle Zink

25056008Title:  Promises I Made (Lies I Told #2)

Author: Michelle Zink

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Grace Fontaine was trained to carry out perfect crimes. But when a mistake was made the night her family tried to execute their biggest heist yet, her world fell apart. Now her brother is in jail, her mother has disappeared with the entire stolen fortune, and her father is determined to find a new mark, no matter the cost.

Haunted by the way she betrayed her friends—and Logan, the only boy she’s ever loved—as well as the role she played in her brother’s arrest, Grace decides she must return to the place every thief knows you should avoid: the scene of the crime.

Returning to Playa Hermosa as a wanted criminal is dangerous. But Grace has only one chance to make things right. To do it, she has to use everything she’s been taught about the art of the con to hunt down the very people who trained her: the only family she’s ever known.
Perfect for fans of Ally Carter, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Gail Carriger, this thrilling, high-stakes novel deftly explores the roles of identity and loyalty while offering a window into the world of the rich and fabulous.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review!

River’s Review:

I liked this book… butttttt I didn’t love it as much as I did the previous book. I felt like a lot of the tension that made the first book so good was missing. And while I liked how everything was wrapped up it just felt like a lot of filler… and this was a fairly short book.

This book starts off shortly after the previous book left off. Grace and Cormac are living in Seattle, trying to con some money out of a woman, and Parker is locked up in Playa Hermosa. Renee is gone and Grace knows that nobody is going to help Parker. So she takes off with the rest of Cormac’s money and heads back to the scene of the crime to try to figure out how to help Parker.

A lot of this book is Grace doing idle things. Grace staking places out. Grace traveling around. Grace being stressed about money. And that’s it. I was SO HAPPY when Marcus and Scotty showed up! This was when things started to get good. We find out who the man next door (who sang the creepy songs) was! And we get this lovely, sexy con-man-turned-domestic-partner-with-his-ex-cop-husband story and I LOVED IT SO MUCH! Grace finally got to experience what it was like to be taken care of and loved! This happy little family was the best and I just wanted them to live happily ever after.

Marcus, we learn, taught Cormac everything he knows and he wants to take Cormac down. Grace is all for this! Sadly the big take down is full of boring stake-outs and little drama. It was all very anti-climatic.

Key characters from the previous book make a few appearances, Grace gets the chance to make amends with a few people, but I really would have LOVED a show down between her and Rachel. Sadly that didn’t happen. I feel like there was a lot of potential in this that just didn’t happen.

But I did enjoy getting a happy ending and I did enjoy seeing Grace come to terms with what she’d done and I loved Marcus and Scotty so much that I’m giving this four stars.

Thanksgiving

I always say that I feel like I haven’t posted in forever when I post that that’s usually because it’s true. Sammy is the best, and I mean BEST coblogger because she does a lot of the work for me and if she ever wants to stop (hint hint) she should just throw her arms up in the air and be like FOR REAL DO MORE WORK.

WARNING! This post is going to be a bit more personal than usual. Yes there will be books, but lots of personal stuff too. BEWARE!

But I am very, very thankful for what she does. Not only is Sammy my coblogger, but she’s my friend of over 10 years. We met on livejournal (yes we are THAT old) and became close again a few years ago when we both started to read (eat? devour? consume?) books and review them. (TANGENT: does anyone else who reviews books rate like, EVERYTHING ELSE in their lives now? I find myself constantly asking my husband how many stars my cooking is…) I asked her to be my coblogger a few summers ago and she’s stuck around and has been amazing. Now we email and text and tweet each other about books and non-book things. She’s a great personal support to me and listens when I talk about my anxiety with people and relationship issues. She constantly sends me cute puppy pictures when I need to be cheered up and I love her!

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2015 has been a very interesting year and I swear wasn’t it just New Years and we were JUST buried under 100 feet of snow??? So much happened this year! I got a new job, husband and I moved to a new apartment and started to seriously work on some of the issues that have plagued us since we first started this journey to the USA together, I tried harder to participate in my family even though I’m still 12 hours away (at least this time it’s by car and not airplane), I made friends, I challenged myself to read books differently than I have before, and I tried to make myself a better person overall. I didn’t achieve all of my personal goals, and I’m sure that when I look at my bookish goals for this year that I didn’t quite realize them all… but that’ s okay! I’ll look back and learn and see what worked and what didn’t. That’s… kinda been the theme of this year to be honest.

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Two things that have happened this past year that I am so thankful for are the new friends that I’ve made and the improvements to my current relationships. I’ve always, always been horrible at keeping in touch with people, my family included. Husband and I have had our ups and downs but moving here was not the cure-all we’d expected it to be and we’ve had to work extra hard this year to really get to where we want to be. He’s doing well academically (really well, like scary well) and I feel like we’re really solid now. I also feel like we’ve found our borders when it comes to independence. I’ve been very dependent on him in the past and he’s been incredibly dependent on me since moving to the USA and I feel like we’re finally getting a handle on things and becoming more independent. Which has lead to me trying to make friends.

In Japan I had a good group of friends but then I moved from Tokyo to Tokai and we all became displaced. Since I am the worst at staying in touch if they weren’t on Twitter or Facebook they slowly faded from my life. See, the worst. While living in Tokai I didn’t bother trying to make friends because I knew that we were only going to be there for two years and I didn’t want anyone else to disappear from. So when we first moved to Boston husband encouraged me to make friends. I didn’t try at first because things were still unstable and I was getting used to the USA again. But this past year I’ve started to go out (to book events) and I even overcame my social anxiety to talk to people and managed to actually MAKE FRIENDS! And I am so grateful for them!

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Five things I’m thankful for:

  1. Health: This year my eye doctor cleared me for ONE FULL YEAR. Yes I don’t have to go back for a year. This is HUGE for me. She even said that my disease seems to be chilling out.
  2. My home! Earlier this year things were VERY stressful because husband and I were very unhappy with our living situation. We finally found a place we love and we’re really happy here.
  3. Friends: see above! Special shout out to Boston Melissa, NY Melissa, Mackenzi, Nicole & Ellie for hanging out with me at book events and having awesome parties. I can’t wait to get to know everyone more!
  4. Paying off my goddamn student loan and getting a new job.
  5. Family: there were a lot of ups and downs this past year but I feel like things are good.

And last but not least… books. Lots and lots of books. PILES OF THEM.

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Have a Happy Thanksgiving guys!!! And if you’re writing NaNo… may the words ever be in you favor!